Thursday, July 01, 2010

Is John Calipari the Devil?

At the risk of offending any Kentucky fans among my readers, this column by Jeff Neuman on John Calipari is so spot on that I had to post it. I was astounded, while watching the NBA draft, to hear John Calipari claim that the fact that five Kentucky players went in the first round was "the biggest day in Kentucky basketball history." Apparently, the new goal of Kentucky fans is to house hot shot players for one year, lose in the tournament and then wave good-bye to those players as they pocketed their big new paychecks. Forget about winning that championship. Such an ambition is so yesterday for ol' Cal. Neuman writes,
Most would agree it was bigger than the day in March when West Virginia beat Kentucky in the East Regional final.

Calipari told Dan Patrick the day after the draft that having so many players taken so early "was like winning the national title."

Patrick could well have asked, "How would you know?" A national championship is as absent from Calipari's resume as his team's accomplishments are from the official NCAA record book.

As for his NBA credentials, in his two-plus years with the New Jersey Nets, he had a .391 winning percentage and no playoff victories, the latter record resulting from three actual losses rather than forfeits after the fact.

Calipari believes the high picks demonstrate his unique ability to prepare players for the NBA. "We're a players-first program," he said.

I think that's great. It's the responsibility of every adult to make sure that young people with basketball skills know that everything's about them.

Four freshmen and a junior are heading to the pros from the Kentucky campus, having learned the vital lesson that nothing will be expected of them beyond the sidelines. Calipari believes that young people will flock to his program, looking to add their names to the school's glorious list of first-round draft choices.

He's probably right. The devil has always been able to tempt the unwary by appealing to their vanity.
As Neuman points out, the true contrast to Calipari's Kentucky team is Mike Krzyzewski's Duke team.
"I was upset that we lost," top draft pick John Wall said of his one Kentucky season, "but you've got to move on about it, and I think we had a great college career."

They take a different approach in Durham, where Mike Krzyzewski started three seniors and two juniors last season, none of whom were drafted at all. Still, Duke did win the NCAA championship, which makes for a pretty great college career in its own way.
What's more impressive - having all those lottery picks on his team and bombing out in the tournament or taking a group of guys with seniors who didn't make the draft and win it all? Those Blue Devils are a different type of Devil from the one whom Calipari represents.